State Pension: an overview

Find out more about the State Pension – how it’s calculated, how it’s paid, how it can be claimed, and what the jargon that’s used around it means.

What is my State Pension age?

The State Pension age is the earliest you can claim your State Pension. Your State Pension age depends on when you were born.

There are some changes to the State Pension age at the moment. For people reaching State Pension age now, it will be age 66 for women and men.

For those born after 5 April 1960, there will be a phased increase in State Pension age to 67, and eventually 68.

It's important not to confuse the State Pension age with your retirement age. Retirement age is the age you retire – and it can vary a lot depending on your financial situation.

How much do you get?

The full level of the State Pension is £179.60 a week in the 2021/22 tax year, which produces an annual income of £9,339.20.

The amount you get might be lower, as your entitlement to State Pension depends on your National Insurance record. You need a minimum of ten years' contributions or credits to get any State Pension, and 35 years on your record to get the full amount.

In some cases, the amount you get might be higher. If your State Pension is more than £179.60 a week, you’ll have a ‘protected amount’, which is usually as a result of you building up an entitlement to Additional State Pension under the old system.

How is it paid?

It’s usually paid every four weeks in arrears. State Pension is taxable but paid before any tax is taken.

This means that although tax isn’t deducted from the State Pension, it will use up some of your tax-free personal allowance.

In 2021/22, the standard tax-free personal allowance is £12,570. This means that if you receive the full new State Pension, you’ll have £12,570 - £9,339.20 = £3,230.80 of your personal allowance remaining for other taxable income. Examples of other taxable income include from employment or a private or occupational pension. 

Does it increase once in payment?

The State Pension is increased at the start of each tax year – on 6th April – according to the ‘triple lock’.

The triple lock makes sure that your State Pension rises by the higher of the average increase in prices (as measured by the Consumer Price Index), the average increase in wages and 2.5%.

If your State Pension includes any Additional State Pension, this will be increased in line with the average increase in prices (as measured by the Consumer Price Index).

How do you qualify for it?

For anyone reaching State Pension age after 6 April 2016, you need to have at least ten years’ National Insurance contributions or credits to qualify to claim your State Pension. You need to have paid or been credited with 35 years of National Insurance contributions to receive the full State Pension amount.

Each year gives 1/35th of the full amount, for example:

  • 35 years’ gives 35/35 x £179.60 = £179.60 a week
  • 30 years’ gives 30/35 x £179.60 = £153.94 a week
  • 10 years’ gives 10/35 x £179.60 = £51.31 a week.

The State Pension is different from Pension Credit.

Pension Credit is a means-tested State benefit. It tops your income up to £177.10 a week for a single person or £270.30 for a couple, where it’s below these figures (2021/22 rates).

How can I check my entitlement?

As well as checking your State Pension age, you can check your entitlement by getting a State Pension forecast.

A State Pension forecast can tell you:

  • how much State Pension you could get
  • when you can get it
  • how to increase it, if you can.

The amount you're forecast to get assumes you make, or are credited with, the maximum number of National Insurance credits in the years up to your State Pension age.

You can check the level of your State Pension entitlement in various ways:

  • Online, using a Government Gateway account. Find out more on the GOV.UK website
  • By completing form BR19 and sending it in the post. The address is on the front of the form. The form is on the GOV.UK website
  • More contact details are on the GOV.UK website

How can I claim my State Pension?

You won’t get your State Pension automatically - you have to claim it.

You should get a letter no later than two months before you reach State Pension age, telling you what to do. If you don’t get a letter, you can still make a claim.

There are various ways to claim:

  • On the GOV.UK website
  • Contact the Pension Service
  • You can complete a State Pension claim form from the GOV.UK website You can then send it to your local pension centre, which you find on the GOV.UK website
  • If you live in Northern Ireland, you can claim your State Pension on the nidirect website
  • If you live abroad, you can either contact the International Pension Centre on +44 19 1218 7777 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 3.30pm UK time) or return form IPC BR1 to the International Pension Centre. The form is on the GOV.UK website and the return address is on the cover. You can also use this link if you’re already getting your State Pension and want to report a change of circumstances.

If you want to change the bank account your State Pension is paid into, contact the Pension Service on 0800 731 0469. If you live abroad, contact the International Pension Centre on +44 19 1218 7777 Both numbers are available Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 3.30pm UK time. 

When I’ve claimed my State Pension when will I receive it?

Your first payment is made at the end of the first full week after you reach State Pension age.

If you delayed taking your State Pension, you’ll get your first payment at the end of the first full week you want to start receiving it.

Your first payment won’t include the time between reaching State Pension age and your normal payment day, if that’s less than one week.

The day your State Pension is paid depends on the last two digits of your National Insurance number.  

State pension payment
Last two digits of your NI number
Day your pension will be paid

00 to 19

Monday

20 to 39

Tuesday

40 to 59

Wednesday

60 to 79

Thursday

80 to 99

Friday

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